This article was published on August 12, 2012

From the Olympics to Google’s covert blogger-payments…here’s the week’s media news in review

From the Olympics to Google’s covert blogger-payments…here’s the week’s media news in review
Paul Sawers
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Paul Sawers

Paul Sawers was a reporter with The Next Web in various roles from May 2011 to November 2014. Follow Paul on Twitter: @psawers or check h Paul Sawers was a reporter with The Next Web in various roles from May 2011 to November 2014. Follow Paul on Twitter: @psawers or check him out on Google+.

If you’ve missed out on all the happenings across the digital media space this week, we’ve pulled together some of the more notable events of these past seven days. Where else can you read about the Olympics, Google’s covert blogger-payments and NASA’s Mars landing?

Omnipresent Olympics

It has been a massive week for the Olympics, with records broken left, right and center. And with London hosting what has been touted as the first ever digital Olympics, more than a few notable tidbits from the world of digital media came to the fore this week.

Indeed, PaidContent reported this week that the Olympics has been a bigger media draw than the Super Bowl, with 8 out of 10 Americans following the London Games via TV, Internet streaming or social media. And with that in mind, some interesting numbers emerged courtesy of AnchorFree, a software provider that makes setting up a virtual private network (VPN) a cinch.

It seems that its Expat Shield product, which gives international users a UK IP address, saw a sizable increase in downloads in the wake of the Olympics kicking off – the company said that by comparing five days before the Olympics started, to 5 days after the Olympics, installations jumped by 212% a day globally, and a whopping 1,849% a day in the USA alone.

In real terms, the company says its notching up as many as 6,500 installations a day, with actual use growing by 23% around the world, and 262% in the US.

No specific information was available regarding what spurred this downloads surge, but it’s more than likely that the BBC’s impressive online Olympics offering, which includes 24 simultaneous live streams, has had at least something to do with it.

Indeed, the BBC has had a pretty good Olympics, something that could safeguard the UK TV licence fee for at least another generation, but this has been juxtaposed against NBC’s coverage on the other side of the Atlantic. While broadcasts were made available online for paying subscribers, TV coverage of Usain Bolt’s 100-meter victory was aired hours after the actual race took place – during prime time.

As The Huffington Post reported, when prompted for a reaction International Olympic (IOC) Committee spokesman Mark Adams opted to sidestep the debate. “It’s certainly not for us to tell them how to reach their audience,” Adams said. “If you wanted live, you could get it live.”

The biggest criticism aimed at NBC is the way it has pandered to advertisers, refusing to broadcast many key events live over-the-air to maximize ad revenue. As NPR reported, this was good business but wasn’t tantamount to good quality for viewers, thus meaning that NBC was both right and wrong with its coverage.

Finally, the BBC hasn’t been entirely without its critics, and this week the UK broadcaster’s Director General Mark Thompson came under scrutiny for apparently requesting domestic coverage be far less UK-centric. As the Guardian reported, a memo sent from BBC News director Helen Boaden to staff, titled “An order from the DG”, said.

“Mark Thompson is increasingly unhappy that we are focusing far too much on Team GB’s performance to the exclusion of all else. This is also becoming a theme within the press. As editor-in-chief, he has issued a directive that this needs to change from today. So you need to get cracking on making that shift.”

Thompson is stepping down shortly anyway, but he has often been unfairly criticized. Was it really that bad to request more focus on the achievements of other nationalities? One thinks that it was likely a well-meaning directive, which was easily twisted in the hands of mischievous journalists.

Ebooks may trump hard copies, but Amazon now offers physical textbooks to rent

Amazon revealed this week that UK readers are now buying more Kindle eBooks than printed books for the first time, with British Kindle owners buying up to four times more books than before they owned the popular Amazon e-reader devices.

“Amazon describes the shift as a renaissance of reading, but the company has already seen digital downloads surpass print sales in its biggest market — the US — since the beginning of 2011,” wrote TNW’s Matt Brian.

So this means that Amazon will be looking to phase out printed texts then, right? Well, no.

As VentureBeat reported, Amazon is now offering physical textbook rentals for college students, as it looks to stay at the forefront of the textbooks market. It’s a cheaper alternative, basically.

“While Amazon has offered digital rentals of textbooks for more than a year, this new initiative will cater to students who feel more comfortable with old-fashioned paper books for studying,” wrote VB’s Sean Ludwig. “It also increases Amazon’s rental selection substantially because many tomes are not yet available as e-books.”

Elsewhere in the digital media realm, All Things D reported that Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting unit had acquired Bleacher Report, a popular sports’ site. “I’m told the deal, which we told you about in June, closed Friday, and is scheduled to be announced today,” wrote Peter Kafka. And yes, this was made official later that day.

“Picking up Bleacher fills a hole for Turner’s digital operations, which lost control of and to corporate cousin Time Inc. last quarter”, added Kafka.

Later in the week, Kafka also revealed that had signed a letter of intent to acquire from The New York Times, having initially bought the glorified content farm for more than $400m in 2005. The sale is not yet finalized, but it seems it’s almost certainly going to happen, with a figure of $270m bandied about.

Finally, a judge this week ordered Google and Oracle to reveal the journalists and bloggers they’re paying to ‘cover’ the ongoing patent trial between them.

“Should journalists have to disclose when they take money from companies to ‘report’ on issues?”, asked PaidContent’s Jeff John Roberts. “As this type of fake journalism becomes more common, one judge appears to have had enough.”

This is noteworthy primarily because it raises serious questions around why so-called journalists weren’t voluntarily offering this information up-front as a disclosure. If you’re being paid by Company X, to write about Company X, you surely cannot pretend to be an impartial commentator.

Media musings: Facebook, football and Spotify

It emerged this week that Budweiser was set to stream an FA Cup English football match live on its Facebook page yesterday (August 11), making it the first time an FA game was broadcast dual screen, as it was also beamed out on ESPN.

Last year, the opening match of the FA Cup was streamed live on Facebook, and helped establish Facebook’s ambitions as a media player. We can likely expect many more media collaborations in the future.

Good news for Arrested Development emerged this week too – filming for the Netflix-exclusive reboot of the hit comedy show was slated to begin this week. “The entire cast of the show, which includes Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi, Will Arnett and Michael Cera, will reportedly return to the new season, though some of the cast members are still finalizing negotiations,” wrote TNW’s Josh Ong.

It’s expected to broadcast some time next year, with all ten episodes being made available at once, rather than serialized.

Finally, with so much being written about Spotify’s subscription success, you’d think that the music-streaming service ‘has won’. But as Rhapsody President Jon Irwin noted this week, there’s still a lot to play for. “Spotify may be the leading service globally in terms of paid subscribers, but not in the U.S.–that title still goes to us,” Fast Company reported Irwin as saying this week.

And finally…

NASA made history this week as its Curiosity Rover landed on Mars, taking the November 2011-launched mission to its next, crucial stage.

However, NASA’s official video of the epic ‘land’ was removed from YouTube after fictitious copyright claim from Scripps. NASA’s official Mars landing video got taken off YouTube after fictitious copyright claim from Scripps Read more at 9 to 5 Google reported:

“NASA posted the landing on YouTube. It showed engineers gleefully cheering and celebrating years of hard work. Of course, NASA wanted to share the event on YouTube in a 13-minute excerpt of the livestream that could have been viewed on Ustream, but not to be stopped by a fictitious copyright claim.”

Thankfully, the video is now live online again for your viewing pleasure: